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A Gluten Free And Vegan Guide To Berlin With Travel Tips. UPDATE 2014



I cannot begin to tell you how good it felt to be back in Berlin this August.  You know the feeling when you do not realise how much you have missed something until you feel a swooping relief to be close to it again?!  That is Berlin for me. I enjoyed a whole month in Berlin in August last year and wrote extensively about my time there.  It felt incredibly good to be back!

This time my trip to the city was for a mere 7 days.  Just enough time to scoot around the various districts to visit any sights I missed on my first visit, and to also sample the new vegan restaurants that had sprung up since I was there 12 months previous.

I chose to be based in Prenzlauer Berg again.  I had fallen for it's picturesque, clean and tree lined shady streets. It has lots of cafes, restaurants, bars and independent shops and kinos, but it is more tranquil than the tourist hub of Mitte and the more edgy keiz (neighbourhoods) of Neukolln and Kreuzberg.

On the first day I went out and hired a bike from Orange Bikes in Prenzlauer Berg.  It is a volunteer organisation that uses its profits to build play areas for children in local parks.  It is also the cheapest bike rental in the city. €7 per 24 hours.




So, I was good to go.  My first stop.  Goura Pakora.  Run by a German who taught himself to cook whilst following the Ayurvedic traditions and his passion for food.  Let me tell you, this guy knows flavour!
I ordered the dosa and was surprised (and relieved) to discover how delicious and crispy his lentil and rice dosa was (I abhor soggy dosa crepes). The filling was just as good as the best dosa I've tasted.  The coconut chutney was delicious, and I did not even miss the usual addition of sambar, a spicy thin broth that traditionally sits alongside a dosa to pour over your crepe or just sip, becoming hedonistically intoxicated by its spicy, hot and exotic flavours. Greedy more than hungry, I also opted for a side order of pakora. The besan flour batter was crispy, and just oily enough to remain light and tasty. The cauliflower inside was like soft peppery pillows.  Totally good.

They also serve a thali plate which looks incredible.  Sadly I only visited here once.  The staff were super friendly and spoke English.  One of the best meals of my trip.  It was a very friendly place. I gave less marks for the ambience just because it is a fast food joint.


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District - Friedrichshain







I hopped on the S-bahn and visited the chilling and thought provoking  Stasi museum located just a little out of the centre in the East.  Here, held in a time warp from the 1970's are the actual offices of State Security for the DDR. On display is a fascinating but haunting look at what the State Security (secret police) did in order to keep a watchful eye on the East Germans in a bid to keep everyone in check.  The surveillance devices were like something out of a James Bond movie.  The propaganda fed to the youth organisations was incredible. An eerie place to visit but worth the trip from the centre.






Let It Be opened up in...it was my first visit and a bit of a walk from the Treptow Park S-bhan.  Let It Be is a vegan creperie but it has other options on the menu too.  I experienced not a small amount of anxiety choosing what to eat.  Each of the dishes, named so to salute famous vegans (I admit a few I've never heard of!) sounded so delicious.  I narrowed it down to a crepe with either the Ted Leo, a buckwheat gullet with soy meat braised in red wine and the Erykah Badu crepe filled with chickpea curry and home made chutney on the side.  The Badu won out. I also ordered a side salad of beet and lentil which was surprisingly delicious. I have to say I loved this place and it was the best meal I had (with Goura Pakora coming close second) in my time in Berlin.  The guy serving was really helpful, it had a great atmosphere and the interior was nicely decorated. The kitchen has a window onto the seating area so we can see the food being prepared.  It was really inexpensive too. Under €5!! I was beginning to question again whether I should take the plunge and settle in Germany.







Oh be still my beating heart (and hungry belly!).  I give you...the Erykah Badu.



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District: Neukölln


Another vegan cafe opened since I visited last year is No Milk Today.  It is close by the canal so I coupled up my visit with a leisurely bike along the water.  They have a few gluten free treats and savouries. I opted for a crumbly, rich brownie and a beverage I love  - lupin coffee.  It has the bitter notes of coffee but made from lupin beans so it is caffeine free, AND delicous   You can get soups, quiche, bagels, scrambled tofu along with alcoholic beverages if that is your bag, coffee and smoothies.






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District: Kreuzberg



Whats not to love about weekends,  sauntering humans and farmers markets?!  Sunday along Kollwitzplatz in Prenzlauer Berg.



For some reason, I never seemed to make it down to Templehof.  The airport bizarrely abandoned in 2008 in a bid to get all of Berlin's air traffic to one airport and not three. I have no idea what was behind the resigning of this.  So, now the Berliners have now taken it under their wing.  Their mark is now well and truly stamped on it.  As is the way, the authorities plan to bring some structure to the activities that are favoured here but at least it is to remain as an open space for leisure and expression.  For now, the rollerbladers, skateboard surfers, joggers, dog walkers and picnickers can still enjoy the space in its wild state, for free.









I loved that green fingered locals took a patch of land by the runway and began to grow vegetables.  Anyone can walk freely among nodding sunflowers, fragrant herbs and sprouting carrots and sit in one of the many little secluded spots where shipping pallets become tables and chairs. Even a dome of rampant runner beans acts as a shelter from the summer sun in one corner of the plot.



Creative planting




Stay long enough and you may see a band take to the hay-bailed stage to bash out a few foot stomping tunes.



I spotted a few new products in my time in Berlin.  Especially so in the all-vegan store Veganz, but they were imported from the USA so I won't mention them here, but I did love the new range of flavoured tofu steaks from Lord Of Tofu, especially the 'chicken' tikka masala version. What makes this tofu very unique and tasty is that it is made with KOMBUCHA which is a delicious fermented tea drink made from a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. I've grown a scoby (what the mushroom that ferments the sugar and tea is called) and made it myself and written about it a lot over the last few years.  I love the fact that it has been used in the tofu making process.  Genius idea!




Berliners are very innovative. Germans are great designers.  This new addition on the vegan scene, Till The Cows Come Home is on Schonhausser Alle (beautiful houses street) on the Prenzlauer Berg/Mitte border.  A shipping container cleverly turned into a little bistro.  Mostly vegan, some raw dishes and sweet treats.  Lots of seating outside under the shade of a big old tree.









Ginger and beet juice.



My eating companion dined on the spinach with wild mushroom salad



I tried the raw zucchini pasta (very popular in Europe with the vegan crowd right now), with tomato and cashew cream sauce.  The staff were very friendly and it was a cool place to hang out but I thought the portions were small and the flavours could be improved on.  For instance, my dish had chopped up dried tomatoes that were not rehydrated and very, very salty. I little pre-soaking and rinsing would have improved the dish. But it was pleasant enough and healthy.




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District: Mitte/Prenzlauer Berg











Laauma is vegan restaurant and cafe that has been open a little over a year.  I visited for the first time one warm and sunny afternoon.  The interior is contemporary but homey. The side room with a large communal table adds to the atmosphere, in addition to the open frontage and outside seating.  My feeling about this place was mixed in context of the overall experience (the food was good however) and I wished I'd had chance to go back and try it again.  It pains me to write a somewhat negative review but read on and make up your own mind.
I'd emailed before I arrived to check they had gluten free options (they list gluten free bread upon request and I was assured they would be able to cater for me. So, I was ready for a hearty, challenge of a monster sandwich to allay my midday hunger.  
When I arrived and hitched up my bike, the girl serving was really unhelpful (more interested in her mobile phone) and said they did not have gluten free.  I was deflated.  But, always one to get creative I knew that they serve some raw foods and I spotted a large raw cracker/bread.  I politely asked if I could have the fillings of the sandwich that I wanted placed between two of those and was shocked for her to say they make everything in the morning and it could not be done.  What?! I saw they had a chef on duty so I was perplexed.  I asked again and she said no, wondering if I had failed to make my request clear.  She came back with the response 'and anyway it would be expensive'.  I assured her I was happy to pay?!  Nope.  Nothing.  Defeated, I ended up choosing one of the jars of raw soups they had sitting in the chiller and a raw cracker.  I sat and watched as other diners were brought out rather lovely looking plates of fresh meals.  Wedges, dips, salads and alike.  The soup and cracker were tasty, but not what I'd set my heart on. 
As I was finishing up the girl serving went off duty and left.  Another girl came out to stand behind the counter.  I approached her and enquired if she spoke English (I knew my loose grip of the German language would not hold up).  She gave me a huge smile and said yes. I explained to her my interaction with the other server and said and she was a little confused.  She assured me they could cater for me and were more than happy to make up sandwiches for gluten free diets.  She offered to make me a sandwich right then and there but I was past it.  The girl apologised for my experience and told me they were a lovely bunch of people who worked there that really enjoyed creating the beautiful food I saw on display.  I put it down to one girl having an off day. I put it behind me as I cycled back along the canal in the sun.  I would go back again, all the other diners looked really satisfied and happy, so ho-hum, I'd give them another try.
They host brunch once a month and sometimes tapas nights. Check Facebook to see what events they have coming up.


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District: Friedrichshain




Berlin's first vegan cocktail bar, opened in August 2013 Die Chaosterorie.  The bar is located just off Danziger Strasse in Prenzlauer Allee.  It is small but perfectly formed. The server guy was really friendly and chatty, taking time to make conversation and entertaining two young German girls at the bar.  Whilst ordering my drink  I caught sight of a cake in the display and could not resist.  It is apparently a traditional German cake with chocolate nougat inside, incased in whipped and piped vegan mousse. Finished with a toasted and chopped hazelnut crust.  It was VERY sweet but I took on the sugar rush like a champion.  But I only ate half and gave the other to a nice looking German guy who'd just sat down the other side of the tropical, pink parasol.  They serve smoothies, juices and lots of cocktails, alcoholic and non. Of course with suggestive names to make you blush and a cocktail umbrella or two.  They also serve small savoury dishes.  I spotted a lovely looking gluten free onion tart on offer but my head was still spinning from the cake and my stomach decidedly full.








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District: Friedrichshain


Before I knew it it was time to pack up my little suitcase and leave. A little heavy of heart that my trip this year was so short.  But no sooner had I closed the door on my little studio my excitement returned as my time in Germany was not over. I had planned a trip to East Germany's second largest city,  just an hour by train, south of Berlin.  I will be sharing my experience of what is now famed as 'the next Berlin' in my next post.  Leipzig here I come!

p.s  I spotted a book whilst in Berlin, it may prove a useful guide to those who are spending some time in Germany.  It is an all vegan guide to eating and shopping in Germany.  Over 600 businesses are listed.  It's called Vegan essen, reisen, einkaufen (shop, travel & eat).

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A Gluten Free and Vegan Guide To Budapest With Advice On Things To Do


Finally, I found myself in Budapest.  Well, I did not just find myself there I went there.  On purpose.  I have heard so much about it.  Lashings of adjectives like beautiful, romantic attached themselves to travellers summations of the spirit of Budapest.  But truth be told, it was reading my friend and fellow blogger Nicole of Vegan Nom Noms account of Budapest and who was gushing about the vegan food there and posting photos to tempt me, that was the tipping point.

Upon arrival I immediately noted the low cost of food, essentials, travel and entertainment.  I could not help but get a sense of freedom of not having to count every penny.  In contrast to say..Paris where hanging out in a cafe can be something you need to add to your budget as a costly excursion.  I took to sitting on walls with a bottle of water to people watch!  No need to do that in Budapest, it is a very affordable city. Budapest is a very walkable city, though it is fairly easy to get around with the metro, tram or bus covering most parts of the city, but I mostly walked.  All the main attractions are in a small area.  Nothing took more than an hour to reach on foot from my base up near the foreign embassies.  It is a good idea to go on one of the free walking tours to orient yourself and get a little background culture. The guides are also great at advising on the 'must do' activities and sites whilst you are visiting.  

Upon setting foot in the city I quickly familiarised myself with a few basic words.  Not easy though.  To say both hello and goodbye Hungarians say szia, pronounced seeya.  They also say 'hello' when bidding someone goodbye?! If you can get your head around the pronunciations of their 44 letters of the dictionary (for instance who'd a thought that the character dzs (not a typo) was pronounced like the English G?! ),  you are halfway there.  I wish I planned that far ahead.  I usually end up learning when I am in the thick of it.

When I go to a new city, I have no idea why, but their style of telephone box, metro signage, cab colour (all yellow by law) and post box somehow sum up and fix in my mind part of their culture. Yes, question that, I do!




I always enjoy seeking out the local street markets.  I bought a bunch of parsley, bound carefully with twine from this beautiful lady.  I was so taken with her gentle features that I enquired if the young girl next to me spoke English. She replied that she did so I asked her to translate, 'you are so beautiful, please may I take your picture'.  The lady smiled so sweetly and nodded humbly.  This is one of several I captured of her.  She is like the generic kindly woman in a children's storybook!  I wanted her to adopt me!








I spotted this.  It struck me as something I wanted to tell you about. What a genius and eco friendly idea.  Herbs and spices in simple paper bags.



Bio ABC was one of several well stocked organic stores in the city.  They had many gluten free and vegan  products.  A good range of organic vegetables.  Bulk bins.  A cake counter with traditional desserts and even some vegan and raw treats.







Bio Abc was one of a few places in the city where you can buy raw products by Elet Konyha ( Life Kitchen).  They provide raw vegan catering and host the most amazing pop up events.  
The buckwheat carob cup biscuits where so morish!  If I go back to Budapest this is the food item I will track down first!  I wish they shipped to the UK!!  Then I will book a table at their pop up restaurant. Bucket list.


One of the numerous Hummus Bar restaurants dotted around the city.  You are never far from your next bowl of pureed bean and tahini!  I had a topping (they have a host of toppings to choose from) of fried aubergine and carrot salad. I also opted for the fava bean instead of the ubiquitous chickpea hummus. So filling and utterly delicious.  Something about consuming hummus for me is so very grounding. Yum.



 
I only had one week in the city.  I did not get to try everything vegan that is on offer.  Vega City (it was Le Bar..and has now moved to larger premises just a few steps from its first incarnation) was one of those I missed this time. A friend told me the food there was good.  Served canteen style with some traditional Hungarian dishes. Smoothies, juices and desserts.  It can be a bit hit and miss, depending on the time of day you arrive as to the range of choice available.







The fisherman's bastion is a must see on the Buda side. So called as an honour to the guild of fishermen who defended this stretch of the city walls in the Middle Ages.





Az Elet Etterme (once called Mannatural) meaning restaurant of life. A raw food restaurant that should be a torch light to all others in its affordability.  £5 for a large plate of delicious raw food?!  The sample plate was as suggests a bit of everything; raw crackers, 'sour cream', pickles, salads, and sprouted quinoa.  Lovely.  Olivia the server was a bubble of energy, so friendly and her English was impeccable.

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I opted for the raw lavender and apple cake, oh, and that little coconut energy ball.  The topping of the cake was lovely but the addition of the physilium husks in the base was a little too evident.  I left my plate clean though.  




Napfenyes Etterem (sunshine restaurant) is located on a quiet street just North of the Jewish district.  You walk downstairs into an underground space.  I expect it would feel really cozy on a wintery day.  The food is Hungarian inspired.  The menu is set everyday and listed on their website. One or two gluten free options appear most days.  I opted for the goulash and a selection from the cold salad bar. The food was comforting and flavoursome though a bit oily.  Most of the staff were friendly and one spoke good English. As with many of the restaurants they had an English menu you could order from.








Did you know a Hungarian invented the Rubik's cube?  I never did master it. Perhaps I will in my dotage, if I sit down for long enough!  AND the biro. Yup, invented by a Hungarian.




Budapest has become quite famous for its Ruin Pubs.  Basically run down (some even have no roof) buildings in the Jewish district that have been turned into pubs and cafes.  Heatlh and Safety would never allow it in the UK!  At the weekends the Szimpla Ruin Pub houses cute and friendly little farmers market.  A great place to while away a few hours people watching and listening to the laid back sounds of the live music.




Dynamo Bake is a cute and friendly little cafe just off of the busy Muzeum Konut road .  It is a bike rental shop coupled with a bake shop.  The owner, Bea (pronounced like bear) returned from a time living in Portugal where she had grown accustomed to the Portuguese way and missed eating baked treats and pastries for breakfast.  She is singlehandedly attempting to bring the Hungarians around to her way of thinking.  Bea opened Dymano Bake once she decided to merge her two passions of biking and pastries. 
She had a small selection of vegan offerings.  I was excited to find a gluten free and vegan black bean brownie (this is my recipe from way back for fudgy black bean brownies).  The one I ate at Dynamo Bake had a crumblier consistency and a thick chocolate shell.  It was not overly sweet and her pastry school credentials shone through.  I was very happy, sipping my tea, nibbling on my brownie and enjoying the peaceful space.






Research also uncovered an ice cream parlour that was offering a selection of dairy, egg and gluten free ice cream.  Levendula (lavender) has two locations in Budapest.  I went along to the one on the Pest side which is located on the fringe of a large shopping centre.  I had a scoop of the red berry, coupled with the dark chocolate and chilli.  They even had gluten free cones.  I got very messy with it (very hot day) and looked like a (happy) chocolate covered toddler by the end of it. Delicious.




I did not get to try Atma Buda (yoga centre with vegetarian cafe) but it has good reviews on Happy Cow.



Mid week I heard about a salt cave underneath a juice bar (Zold Turmix..green smoothie) in Pest.  I had to go and experience that.  It is a natural treatment said to treat respiratory and skin conditions, used to treat since ancient Greeks saw the benefits of the anti microbial action of salt. There was only two of us in there.  It was a strange air and when you breathed you got a slight sensation up your nose similar to when you get water up your nose.  It was very relaxing being down in the cave and the music they fed in in the hour I lay in my reclining massage chair was very chilled. Chilled as in relaxing. Not chilled as in cold.



Edes Elet Cukraszda (vegan cake shop and candy store) is not far from the bridge that crosses the danube and also takes you to Margaret Island (a small island where joggers, beach bums, tourists and locals escape the city for a bit of green space).  There are three vegan eateries in this small area.  So visit hungry! It is totally vegan and has lots of cakes, bakes and slices on display.  Sadly, they did not have any gluten free cakes on the day I visited.  I was reliably informed by a fellow traveler that they were super tasty.





I found this hipster coffee shop, Madal Cafe just on the next street.  They had some raw treats so I ordered a specialist green tea to go with a sweet macha morsel, took and seat and watched people come and go.  It was a popular spot.






The spas with medicinal waters are very popular in Budapest.  The Turkish occupation of the city in the 16th century saw many spas to enjoy the thermal waters. Whilst the Hungarians  then built several spas of their own, a few of the original Turkish bathing houses remain.  I choose to visit a lesser known and the oldest in the city Veli Bej (and therefore far quieter) spa which has a hospital built around it.  I bathed in the 38 degree waters, had a blissful massage, sweated and steamed many times in the infra red sauna and the steam room.  Throwing handfuls of ice on my body in between the two. A total of 3 hours and I emerged the cleanest person in Budapest, and the most chilled.   Recently refurbished to a very high standard it was total luxury. Bliss for around £20! 




A cute house.  One of many photos of buildings I took.  I will share one.  




Edeni.  A totally vegan, canteen style eatery situated in a buzzing intersection of restaurants on the hilly Buda side.  Inexpensive and simple food.  My Mexican chilli was very good.  My eating companions declared their choices were tasty too. They had authentic gylash (it is often thought, incorrectly, that goulash is their national dish but it is not, theirs is a soup style medley of ingredients, with a different spelling).  Lots of gluten free choices for dessert. The double decker style of cake popular in many of the vegan places I visited, was tasty and surprisingly light..not so for my friends chocolate torte, which though rich and delicious, had them beat!















Crazy Fruits. A fast food vegan smoothie and raw food and wrap cafe.  Sadly it was closed for the day when I visited.



Mid way through my stay I decided to get out of the city and see what the Hungarian landscape looks like free of concrete, brick and steel.  Under an hour, the train skirted the Danube and stopped at Visegrad a small town beside the Danube in an area dubbed by the locals The Bend.   The nearby quaint villages are popular with tourists but I wanted to visit the lush green vistas I'd seen in my Google searches.  There is a castle built after the Mongol invasion in 1240 to protect royalty against invaders atop a hill.  I had to take a little ferry boat that runs once an hour to the other side of the river and then climb up, quickly as the rumbling thunder was growing more threatening by the minute.




The climb was worth it. Ah, how serene.



I visited the Hungarian Ethnographic museum situated opposite the Parliament Building.  It had a fascinating exhibition with real sized examples of traditional Hungarian homes, churches, places of work.  Costumes and pottery.  One of the staff members is a keen photographer and had put together a fascinating collection of people in rural Hungary and their homes, surprisingly they live like this today! Basic needs are met and need none of our modern day frippery. 



The cool white stone of the Parliament Building.



The Shoes, honour the Jews killed by fascist militia in Budapest during World War II.  They were ordered to remove their shoes prior to being shot at the edge of the water.  The river consumed their bodies and carried them away.  The memorial was conceived by a Hungarian film director in honour of those who lost their lives.



Peas & Love is a little cafe recently opened by Rebeca, a young Romanian foodie who wanted to offer a more healthy and affordable (some might say it is all affordable) option of plant based food in the city.  The owner is super friendly and speaks English.







I chose a small selection of their salads to go with my beet burger.  Which I have to say was awesome.  So tasty and substantial!




She even has launched her own range of vegan supplements!




Balamber cafe is located in the area west of the Royal Palace, down a zig zag of steps.  It's cutesy interior is bright and welcoming.  Owned by two friends, Rita & Panni, with no previous restaurant experience just a strong passion for healthy and delicious plant based food.  The menu is mostly vegan.  Two plates are on offer each day.  I chose a raw zucchini and tomato salad with sweetcorn fritters.  You do need to ask which is gluten free and vegan if that is your bag, too.







Delicious 'three bite' chocolate cheesecake.  It was lovely. I wish all places had smaller offerings so you can indulge freely.



A scene in one of the lovely parks.



I climbed up Gellert Hill to reach the Freedom Statue.  If you are not feeling so energetic you can take the 19th century Funicular Railway to the top of Castle Hill and then walk over.



View!


I loved my time in Budapest.  The Hungarian Forint can buy you a nice lifestyle  I would definitely hope to return one day and also explore more of Hungary.  If you are vegan or vegetarian you will be well catered for!  I wished I'd gotten around to trying all of the ones featured on Happy Cow.  Being gluten free does sometimes hinder my tasting adventures.  There is a totally gluten free restaurant that I will check out when I return.  It is not vegan but they cater for vegans.  If you go then give Koles a try.

Aside from the obligatory Happy Cow as reference I also got lots of information about Budapest from We Love Budapest  Budaveg Budapest By Locals Hipster Hostel and Indefinite Adventure


Top tips: Useful to print out and take with you before you go.

I am vegan and gluten free - en vagnok vegan es glutenmentes

For reference if you are gluten free say nem (no) to;
Buza - wheat
arpa - Barley
zab - oats
rozs - rye
bolgar buza - bulgar wheat
buzadora - semolina
tonkoly - spelt
malata - malt
kusz kusz - cous cous
malatacukor - maltose

vegan say NEM (no) to;
hus - meat
hal - fish
vaj - butter
tojas - eggs
sajt - cheese
tejtermekek - dairy
tej - milk
krem - cream
laktoz - lactose
zselatin - gelatin
allat - animal
zsir - fat or lard
mez - honey


say IGEN (yes) to;
vegetáriánus/vegan - vegan
glutenmentes - gluten free
vagyok - soy
cirok - sorghum
rizs - rice
nemzet - millet
bab - bean
kukorica - corn
len - flax
hajdina - buckwheat
amarant - amaranth



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